After saying goodbye to Peru, Ankur and I gave up a whopping $135 dollars to enter what was supposedly the cheapest country in South America – Bolivia. Our first stop was Copacabana from where we caught a ferry to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) situated in Lake Titicaca. At 3811 meters (12,500 feet), the lake is known as the largest high-altitude lake in the world.
We arrived in Copacabana close to 1pm, where we met some people from PSF who had just returned from the island. They suggested to stay in a hostel and not camp since there’s usually a thunderstorm every night. After that, we were on our way to the island on a 90-minute ferry. We found some seats at the top and were in for a big surprise during the ride. A family of five had three notorious members all with water guns and water balloons. Two of them were a boy and a girl (between 4 and 8 years of age) and the third was their dad (also my hero). Our boat gradually caught up to another boat which left the dock a few minutes earlier. After that, it was complete annihilation.
It was like Japanese fisherman versus sedated salmon. Our boat must have drenched every single exposed person on the other boat. I couldn’t stop looking on in complete shock and amusement. The carnage continued on for longer than necessary until our ferries went in different directions.
Towards the end of the ride we saw small islands with lone trees growing out of almost nothing. We eventually arrived into the small port of Yumani and at the base of Incan steps leading to a trail near the top of the island. We were helped by young Marco who said he could show us the way to a hostel we read good things about. We arrived after a long while with our packs after taking many breaks and experiencing shortness of breath at above 12,500 ft.
Once situated in our room, I spoke to our young guide about how he manages work and school. Marco goes to school everyday from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm and then works in the afternoon into the evening. He works mainly to help his family and is only 13 years old.
After unpacking a few things and taking a quick rest at our hostel, we took advantage of the remaining hour or so of sunlight and hiked around the south end of the island.
We gradually arrived to the top of a mountain with an amazing view of the western side of the island.
Towards the east, we could barely see the Cordillera Real with its snowcapped mountains in the Bolivian Altiplano.
Sunset came soon and we found a ridge with a decent view to get a few photos.
A view that was just as great were the clouds in the eastern sky and how they caught the setting hues of the sun.
The next morning we packed all our gear and went on a long hike along the ridge and shore of the entire island. The plan was to arrive at the northern port, Cha’llapampa by mid-day to get a ferry back to mainland Bolivia.
After almost four hours of slow hiking, we could see the small port town from the ridge.
We were soon on a boat and returning to Copacabana. One of the highlights of our trip to Isla del Sol we were not able to capture through a photos. It was the night sky with a lucid view of the milky way. There was only one other time I saw so many stars and that was in Desolation Wilderness, California. But, what made this view even more intense were the sudden flashes of light coming from the approaching thunderstorm in the east.
Isla del Sol did me well. Not only were there amazing views similar to those of California coastline, but there was something else that California can barely offer as a result of segregation. It was the stark reality of the state of near poverty of the locals and the long working hours of entire families. Marco was just one example of millions of people around South America and a good reminder of why people like myself from the states are fortunate, but typically in a state of ignorance. To end on a better note, here’s a sweet panorama: